New Year. We'll be carrying good intentions into 2018 along with those couple of extra pounds and self-recrimination left over from Christmas 2017.
I have a thing about New Year's resolutions, as you may already know. If you can't be bothered to read last year's post on the subject because you're still squinting through a brain-liquefying hangover, I'll summarise the main points for you:
You will fail
Now that's out of the way, you can relax. Have a chocolate and some paracetamol.
New Year is generally a busy time in the fitness and well-being sector. I know that in the weeks to come I'll look out over a sea of slightly anxious faces glowing with the vague notion that Downward Facing Dog will drop them a dress size in a fortnight after reading a scientific research paper in December's Cosmo. You might be hoping the same.
Now, I hate to work against my own economic best interest but I have to tell you that it won't. Those resolutions to become ripped, shredded and generally tattered will, in all probability, last less time than it takes for the new smell of your leggings to wear off.
Sorry if this isn't the encouragement you were looking for. Here's an insincere picture to help you meet your doomed and unrealistic goals.
For yoga to work as a tool for true, sustainable transformation we have to commit to ourself as we are, not to some idealised future version (that slimmer, fitter one). And this is why it can be frustrating to see people drop out of class after just a few weeks.
Will yoga build strong, lean muscles? Yes.
Will yoga build stamina? Yes.
Will yoga increase flexibility? Yes.
Benefits that can be afforded by any other physical fitness regime, sure, and in all likelihood more quickly. Mats are abandoned for the gym, kettle bells and progress selfies.
All those benefits above? They are a side effect of yoga but they're not the point of yoga. Yoga encompasses much more than improving physical appearance. Yoga will slowly work on all that inner stuff essential if we want any outward change to be lasting. It works on self-doubt, self-criticism, self-acceptance and self-confidence. It works on releasing baggage and the myriad of ways we self-sabotage our efforts to change.
This inner work doesn't require sweating on a treadmill or increasing reps with a heavier weight. Quite the opposite. It asks that we do less, slow down, take time, become present with who we are now and breathe. Relax.
Doesn't relaxing more sound like the best of New Year resolutions? You'll swap gym membership for some heavy emotional lifting instead, but by embracing stillness you'll effect long-lasting, satisfying change that nourishes the soul, not just the body.
Do less, become more.